Gilbert’s planned new community center will remain shared by preschool-aged children and senior citizens, the Town Council decided Tuesday night.
But, the new 16,000-square-foot building will be constructed in a way that separates children from adults as best as possible, town officials said.
Almost 40 seniors attended a Town Council meeting two weeks ago, asking for a senior center of their own. The town’s only senior center is part of a community center that also houses children’s programs and hosts other events.
But town officials said because of the growing need for children’s programs, the town must make the best use of any space it has when it builds a new center to replace the current one on the same lot near Gilbert and Elliot roads.
“It would be a huge disservice to citizens to build any public building specifically for a specific class,” Mayor Steve Berman said.
About a dozen seniors left Tuesday’s meeting saying they were disappointed.
“The whole thing should be strictly for seniors,” said Bob Wunderle, who attends the senior center.
Kim Chambal, though not a senior, said she was outraged that seniors were not allowed to speak during the meeting.
“If they get discarded, it’s just not right,” she said.
Councilman Steve Urie said the neighboring Boys and Girls Club may be able to assist and relieve the center by using a townowned room at its site for some programs. Councilman Larry Morrison suggested building a smaller senior-only center and using other funds for park programs elsewhere, but other council members said that wasn’t realistic.
Parents will be encouraged to drop their children off at a different door from the one seniors use, and restrooms will be separate, town officials said.
The new center is expected to open in late 2007 and cost $3.2 million.